Monday, July 28, 2008

Top Considerations for Choosing Firm

As you consider legal employment -- at any level -- you may be thinking "all firms are the same. It doesn't really matter where I end up."  Well, you are partially correct.  Many firms have similar attributes.  There can be distinguishing features, however.  You should pay attention to what is important to YOU.  What is important today ($$$, prestige, city, training) may change down the road (e.g, willing to take less $$ to be bigger fish in smaller pond, or gain more work-life balance, or move to boutique practice).

You need to consider what it is you really want in a place that you will spend most of your waking hours.  I suggest the following are good considerations.  Now, remember, what may be important to HP may not be important to you...these are just suggestions.  

10. Does firm have the practice areas in which you are interested?

9. Is there an opportunity for someone at your level to gain training and experience in those areas?

8. Does firm promote "up from the ranks," or are most partners laterals?

7. Do you feel comfortable at the firm?  If it feels stuffy and you feel uncomfortable, keep that in mind, assuming you have other choices.

6. When you visit the firm, are all the doors closed? Do people seem like they interact cordially with each other?  Maybe you don't care, but HP does.  

5. If you are a diverse candidate (woman, minority, gay/lesbian/transgender) does the firm appear to be a place that is supportive of all attorneys?  I realize this is a tough one to decipher.  No firm I know is going to admit to being anti-diversity of course.  You need to do some digging check on numbers of women/minority/gay individuals who are partners, in management, etc.  

4. Do you know anyone who has worked at this firm?  Get their insights...even if they have sour grapes, hopefully they can provide some insights to the good and the bad.

3. Have you used your research tools?  Check Google, Check Above the Law, do some sleuthing.  Sure, no firm or organization will have a perfect record, but if there is a LOT of negative commenting out there, go in with your eyes open.  

2. Will this firm or organization be a good platform for your next opportunity?  Even if you think you will stay around, it is always good to be thinking about options down the road.  Here, prestige does matter, to some degree. But don't be miserable for a few years just to have a name on your resume. 

1. What is the A-hole factor?  This is very important!  If the people you've met seem like cocky a-holes, this is not a good sign, as firms usually send out interviewers who are "people persons" and reflect well on firm.  If these people brag about the 2300 hours they billed, run...we all work but only tools brag about that.  You do not want a firm with a high A-hole quotient.  A simple, but important point. 

Saturday, July 26, 2008

quick cover letter advice

A commenting party asked HP about cover letters.  Here's the quick advice.  Remember, we spend very little time on them, but a typo may very well catch our eyes:

1. State your year in school or post-school (clerkship, etc).  "I am a second year student at XYZ Law School"

2. State what office of the firm you are interested in (if multiple offices are interviewing).  This may be combined nicely with your connection to the city "As a native New Yorker, I am interested in returning home to practice law, and am applying for a position in your New York City office."

3. Please DO NOT tell us a whole personal saga "Although I bombed my first year, it was because my dog died and I have my act together now."  TMI = too much information for HPs.  We do not want whining. We just want the very quick facts.  

4. Do point out anything unusual that demonstrates leadership or entrepreneurial skills, time management, working under pressure, etc. (e.g, military service, "worked 30 hours a week during college to defray tuition costs," "started business in college..." ) .  This can be especially helpful if your grades do not reach the cut off. 

5. Do point out a connection between your background/experience and the practice area or firm (e.g., IP practice and you have an engineering background; employment law interest and you interned at state anti-discrimination office).

6. Keep it short and sweet.  We skim.

7. Proof it.  If we skim and it has errors, we (or at least I) pass.

8. No funky fonts or paper.  Basic is fine.  

9. Please do not stalk us by calling/emailing, etc while we are screening.  Don't stalk the recruiting coordinator either.

10. Include good contact information -- hopefully not mom and dad's house - they love you but don't always relay messages correctly.   Cell phones and email addresses that you check often are good.  Sometimes we might have a question before we screen -- and might want to reach you.  Rare, but it happens. 

Friday, July 25, 2008

On Campus Interviewing: Are You Ready?

Before you know it, anxious and bright law students will knock on doors to greet various firm representatives for OCI (on campus interviewing).  Some OCI starts as early as mid-August.  We're already reviewing resumes at HP's firm.  We will get into OCI tips for your behavior/attitude, but here's a list of the top 10 things you should know about OCI:  

10.  Most firms have preferred schools.  If a firm sends a representative to your school (as opposed to collecting resumes), your school is probably on the firm's preferred list.  This relates to the school's prestige, quality of students, past summers and associates who have matriculated at firm ("feeder" school).  Some firms have particular feeder schools for particular areas of the country.

9. Cover letters, resumes, transcripts and writing samples are generally requested. Do us a favor and fix any mail merge letters.  Every year I get one that is referring to another law firm.  Sloppy. Yes, that does disqualify you when I am reviewing resumes.

8. Even though we ask for resumes, transcripts, cover letters, etc., we typically review them VERY quickly. I'd say each applicant might get a minute, tops when we are picking which candidates we will screen.  The person interviewing you is supposed to spend a few minutes getting familiar with the resume and jotting down questions based on your experiences.

7. We select resumes on the obvious: grades, journals, moot court. Different firms have different cut offs for different schools.  For Harvard it may be top 50 percent of class.  For other schools, it may be top 10 percent.  I can go outside the limits if there's something to "add."  For instance, this person is at 20 percent of class, but made law review and has an internship at the DA's office.

6.   I look at undergraduate school and performance there.  This HP likes to see honors. 

5. I am also selecting based on possible "fit" for the applicable office.  For some places, you really need a connection to the city. For others, not so important.  In some firms, the office may be looking for a hire in a particular department.  If litigation is not hiring and you want litigation, you probably won't get an interview.

4. Don't take it too personally. As I mentioned, we don't analyze the resumes for hours; just a review.  We may think one person is a potential "fit" and another is not; maybe you spent 2 years after law school in City X and your classmate only spent 3 months.   Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to why your friend got an interview and you did not.  

3. Please do some research on the firms.  I know it is hard to learn about so many different places, or maybe they all sound alike, but you should know some basic facts.  And, you are so lucky these days to have so much information -- Firm websites, Google, etc.  All HP had was Lexis and NALP forms (and informal chats).  Check the news releases on the firms' websites, that will help.

2. If you find out in advance who will be interviewing, read that person's biography.  Google them.  That way, when you get to the part of the interview where they ask you "any questions," you can ask them about their pro bono case, or how they got involved in the XYZ board, or the firm committee.  We like this, it shows you put effort in and prepared.  It doesn't have to do with you sucking up to us, it demonstrates that you would similarly prepare for a client meeting or presentation.  

1. Be prepared to speak about something substantive.  If you had a law-related job your first summer or at some other point, you could talk about a motion you drafted, or a court proceeding you observed/assisted.  Good interviewers will try to see if you can discuss a substantive matter articulately.

And drooling!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Flip Flops Continued

So, my friends and I are somewhat amazed at how HP's blog has gotten picked up by other blogs (Above the Law - yes even HPs occasionally read it, we need to know what is going on out there too, Wall Street Journal blog) -- mainly because of the comment on flip flops.  We find it bizarre that there is some debate on flip flops in a law firm.  What is going on here?  I will give you flip flops if you are working on a Saturday or Sunday in the office in the summer.  Or working late in the office.  Fine.  But, during the workday -- NOT Appropriate.  Does this actually need to be stated?  What is so difficult about good old regular shoes?  YOU ARE IN A PROFESSIONAL WORKPLACE.  Act professional.  I'm not saying you have to buy Ferragamos or any particular brand of shoe or at a particular price point. But, the fact that people are debating this issue makes me shake my head.  Or perhaps I should give up BigLaw and go into the footwear business?  I mean look at those Croc people.  Don't get any ideas, people, no Crocs either, unless you have a doctor's note.  

Please remember for OCI that suits are appropriate (do I need to actually say this?).  Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.  Screening interviews generally last 20-30 minutes, so it is not a lot of time.  You do want to make the impression that you are a professional, hard-working individual who would have a bright future at the firm -- or at least warrants a call back slot.   We are assessing your professionalism and poise, in addition to your intellect and interest in the firm/city/etc.    

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

3L Hiring

A few of you have asked for insights on 3L hiring.  What I will say, I'm sure will be criticized later as "obvious," but here goes:  3L job search is difficult.  Depending on your circumstances, it can be extremely difficult.  But, not entirely impossible.  There are different scenarios:

-- Do you have solid grades and credentials and a good reason you would rather interview than take 2L summer offer?  This is a decent position to be in.  However, what is your reason?  We HPs don't like pure "shopping" or you're not being sure about the 2L summer firm: that might signal you would be unsure about any firm and either just take an offer and continue shopping or join but only stay a very short time.    We want people who, even if they won't stay the full partnership track, will stay long enough to make it worthwhile for both firm and attorney.  What might be good reasons:  change of city for justified reasons -- e.g., newly engaged and fiance (ee) is in city of 3L interview - common scenario.  Some firms will be hiring 3Ls.  Why?  It may be that their 2L summers are not coming back, for various reasons - e.g., family member ill in another city and summer wants to be closer to home; 2L decides to move for spouse/fiance, etc.  2L decides to clerk.   Some slots do open and if you are a star and interested in an area where the firms has needs, you should fare well.  Be honest with your 2L summer firm because the 3L firm may want to check references.  Let your potential references know in advance.  HPs and firms appreciate honesty. We understand plans change, especially when it comes to some of the scenarios I have described.  

-- Did you not get an offer at 2L summer?  This is more problematic.  It is best to be honest.  Deal killer you say?  Well, depends.  If no offer because it is well publicized the firm over-hired, then referring to the reports (rather than making it look like your personal opinion) may be helpful. Or, it could be that you really want to practice in X area (e.g., white collar criminal defense), and it turns out that particular group is not hiring and the firm gives offers from particular departments or groups.  If you did not get an offer because of substantive work, or judgment issues -- e.g., embarrassing all office e-mail you sent -- this is a big problem.  Do not lie.  Remember, hiring partner told you that HPs and HPs colleagues have friends at other firms.  If you look great on paper but do not have an offer, we may think something does not smell right.  We're not dumb.  

-- So, assuming you don't follow into the first "easy" scenario above (and yes, I realize there are others - e.g, you worked at a public interest organization and now want to go to a firm), what do you do?  The 3L search is not for the lazy.  You need to work hard.  Most importantly, you need to NETWORK.  This is HUGE.  You may need to explore smaller firms, regional firms, boutiques, positions in government, other organizations.  We will explore this in more detail in a later post.  HP does have work to do.  Good luck!  

Other Blog Comments - Proving Point

Comments from readers of other blogs are proving my point. People seem to be upset that Hiring Partner ("HP") is telling them how to behave/conform.   Why are you so upset?  HP has been in law firms for a number of years.  HP sees a change in the new generation. Of course, not every law student and new lawyer needs to be taught these things.  Some folks had good parents or other role models who taught them social and professional courtesies.  Others either did not, or refused to listen.  Somehow, when we went from $ 70/80,000 to 125,000 to 145,000 to 160,000, some of you lost track of reality. Clients pay firms for great work. Clients deserve great work.  You need to serve clients and learn how to practice law.  You also need to function professionally in the workplace.  In just about all workplaces, there are conventions.  Sorry, folks, but for law firm salaries, you can put on real shoes instead of flip flops.  It's Nordstrom anniversary sale time -- go pick up a pair!  If you don't like conforming, then you might want to think about some other gig.  

Sunday, July 20, 2008

How is Summer Going -- Assessment/Finish Strong

Hello Summer Associates.  How is your summer going?   Hiring Partner isn't asking if you have had a nice time and attended fun and perhaps swanky events.  Rather, I'm asking, how have your substantive work assignments and interaction with the firm's attorneys and other personnel fared?  At this point in the summer (assuming you have a few weeks left), it is a good time to make an assessment.

If you have had a mid-summer evaluation/assessment, you should have some sense of how you have been doing.  If you have not yet had an assessment, you may want to ask for one.  It is important to know how the attorneys have viewed your work product and your interaction in the law firm.  This is also a good time to ask the assigning attorneys for projects in areas in which you have an interest.  

If you received an evaluation with some constructive criticism, hopefully you have taken it to heart and tried to remedy any issues within your control.  For example, I once knew a summer associate from a top law school.  He was not, however, a very good proofreader. His analysis was sound, his research thorough. However, he did not take the committee's mid-summer advice to print out and carefully proof his documents.  This failure to incorporate advice became a problem.  

[NOTE:  a few comments have noted that some of these seem obvious.  The point is that some of them are obvious -- that is the problem.  You would be amazed at some of the things we HPs see -- it is not just me.  Remember, HP has friends who are HPs and recruiting committee members.  The crux of the blog is that there's some basic common sense and courtesies missing sometimes.  Yes, several of this items are basic, but apparently that is what's needed: some basic advice.]

In an effort to render short words of wisdom, here are my top 10 things you should/should not do to finish the summer strong:

10. Do not cry in your mid-summer evaluation.  There is no crying in baseball, or in law firms.  

9. Do not allow your helicopter parent to call Hiring Partner or Recruiting Coordinator to ask about your work, evaluation, or offer potential.  PEOPLE:  We are sure your parents are nice, but we don't need them involved in our decision-making.  Parental involvement at your age (i.e,. over 22) is only appropriate if your mom or dad is the CEO or GC of a Fortune 500 company, thank you very much.  I'm kidding here, of course.  Please leave your parents at home.  

8. Do not take criticism poorly.  Most of us Hiring Partners and recruiting committee members want you to do well.  We want to make offers (well, I do).  We are giving you advice in an effort to help you develop as a summer associate and a lawyer.  Take it to heart.  You may ask questions seeking further guidance , but try not do so defensively.   

7. Do not get toasted at end of summer events.  This would seem to be an obvious point but it does happen.  Remember the previous advice: do not seek romance or miscellaneous encounters at firm events.  FOCUS. 

6. Do not assume everything you tell your paired associate/lawyer advisor is "privileged." At some firms, the paired associates participate in the evaluations and would share how you cried every afternoon at 3 p.m. 

5. Do say yes to opportunities to participate in observation events with partners, associates, and other attorneys.  Attendance at a deposition is a great learning opportunity. Moreover, you will often get some good one on one time with the attorneys since there's often travel involved.

4. Do continue to be courteous to attorneys and staff.  Yes, this is a repeat but VERY important.  Staff often give input to the recruiting committee/hiring partner, and "it's nice to be nice."  

3. Do wrap up your open projects, making sure you do a great job even in the very last sentence of your last memorandum.  Be helpful --for example,  include copies of cases in the event the attorneys have questions about the cases after you have left. 

2. Do thank the Hiring Partner, the recruiting committee and staff, your assistant, the office manager and your advisor at the end of the summer for making your clerkship great.  It is generally acceptable to ask for final feedback from the recruiting committee, even if they are not in a position to issue an offer on your last day.

1. Do not send an All Firm email.  I'm torn on all office emails or all attorneys in office emails.  Ask your advisor or the recruiting staff if it would be appropriate.  If yes, make it VERY SHORT and SWEET:  "Today is the last day of my time as a summer associate with XYZ Firm.  I wanted to take an opportunity to thank you all for a terrific summer.  I have enjoyed working with all of you.  I return to law school with great things to say about XYZ Firm. " [Note: this is just an example folks, please do not copy and paste in two weeks!]

Btw, work and other commitments permitting, Hiring Partner will field questions from time to time, so feel free to comment (nicely!)  

Friday, July 18, 2008

Top Ten Things that Annoy Your Hiring Partner

I've taken a poll of some of my hiring partner friends.  Here, I present you with a list of the Top Ten Things Law Students Do that Annoy Your Hiring Partner During the Summer:

10. Ask to leave work early for various non-emergency related reasons (e.g. guests are coming and I need to clean up my house).

9.   Put in a request for reimbursement for a $1.35 cup of coffee you had while on brief work travel.

8.     "Personalize" your summer associate office as if it is your full time office -- hanging pictures and diplomas on walls!

7.   Asking your secretary to make you medical and other personal appointments.  

6. Wearing overly casual clothes on business casual days.  I realize this can be a tricky category... we will discuss this topic in more detail in a later post.

5. Failing to turn in assignments on time.

4. Leaving summer associate events super early.  This is especially bad if it is a small event and people will notice your absence.  I was at one once where the summers were introduced to the attorneys and guests -- but one gal had left to go to a "better party."  Her absence was noted.

3. Being rude to support staff.  If you say thank you to everyone who helps you, you would be amazed at how the staff will respond.  Support staff work hard to help make you and the firm look good to clients and other third parties.  DO NOT treat them like doormats.  DO treat them with respect and show your appreciation.

2. Seeking to date support staff/attorneys.  The flip side of number 3, above, is being "overly friendly" to support staff or others in the office.  Please, people, remember:  this is a job interview -- yes, the whole summer!   You will have plenty of time for dating after the summer associate program is done.  Be professional and focused.  

1.  Failing to show up -- for work, events, etc.  If you are invited to an attorney's house for a summer associate event -- RSVP (by the deadline!) "yes" and show up on a timely basis.  It is not appropriate to "pop by" at 10:45 p.m., or to email the next day (unless you were locked up, in which case don't bother emailing).   These are people at home.  They are hosting the event for YOU. Show up on time - do not bring guests unless guests are invited and you have RSVP'd.  Be charming and pleasant.  Be respectful.  DO NOT take off your flip flops (btw, don't wear flip flops!) and put your bare feet on the partner's couch/chair, etc -- YES, I saw this one happen myself.  YOU ARE NOT AT HOME.   Talk to the host's wife/husband/partner, talk to the other attorneys and guests.  Leave when others appear to be leaving.  It would be nice to send a handwritten thank you the next day or two.  

Welcome to Hiring Partner's Blog!

Hello there.  Welcome to my blog.  Who is Hiring Partner?  I am the hiring partner at an office of an AM LAW 200 law firm.  I oversee on campus recruiting at targeted law schools for our office and local candidates for other firm offices.  I also manage our summer associate program.  I decide which law students get offers to come to our office for a full day of interviews after an initial screening  (aka "call backs").  I also decide which of these law students gets offers to join our summer associate program in my office.  When the summer program ends, I decide who gets an offer of full time employment.  I work with a recruiting committee and consult with the firm's hiring partner.  

Why blog?  Several of the hiring partners and recruiting staff have discussed issues that have arisen with respect to this new generation of budding lawyers, aka the millenials (sp?).  I keep hearing it is a generational thing.  I thought it would be useful to have a blog where law students and others can learn about things that -- despite their great grades and stellar pedigrees -- can nevertheless disrupt your getting an offer at the firm of your choice.  You would be amazed at some of the things that have been occurring.  Many of them involve the lack of simple common courtesies.  I don't think the students are generally ill-willed, but several examples seem to point to a common problem of failing to use common sense and good judgement.  These are two very important qualities when it comes to lawyering.  So, thanks for stopping by the blog and I hope that Hiring Partner's insights help you in your journey as you finish up your summer associate programs and as we head into the fall on campus recruiting season.  This blog is not meant to chastise, but merely to guide -- to give law students (and perhaps others, since many of these themes are universal -- insight to the decisionmaking process of the Hiring Partner.  We will also tap into the guidance of the recruiting coordinator, the professional staff member who oversees firm recruiting.  And, we may even have some guest Hiring Partners from time to time.   I hope it is an educational, productive, and fun journey!  

Disclaimer:  The views expressed herein are those of this Hiring Partner (or as specified, guest participants).  All opinions herein are those of the individual blogger and not of Hiring Partner's firm or any particular firm.